Threaded fasteners are a popular and effective way to assemble 3D printed parts into one piece. When building prototypes for hardware products, you often need to make assembled structures that are more complicated than a single 3D printed component. For example, an electronics enclosure or robotic assembly. Therefore in such cases, threaded fasteners are a great tool for efficient assembly and disassembly.
There are mainly five different methods used to assemble 3D printed parts with threaded fasteners, the most conventional one being cutting a thread.
This is the most traditional method for using threads. In traditional manufacturing, once a CNC places holes where threads will go, a drill tap is used to create the desired threads in each hole.
When assembling 3D printed parts, you can use the same method with a hand drill tap to create threads in your plastic prototype. It involves using a tap wrench to cut a thread in a pre-printed or drilled hole.
Securing 3D printed parts with self-tapping screws is the cheapest and fastest method. Self-tapping screws bore their own opening simultaneously during the process of being screwed into materials.
This method is ideal for your first prototype. However, note that using self-tapping screws also mean limitations for disassembly. Hence, it is not suitable for parts that need to be assembled and disassembled frequently. It is also brittle and thus may break easily.
Threaded inserts is the most common go-to method to assemble 3D printed parts with threaded fasteners. This is due to the fact that this method is straightforward, easy and clean.
There are two types of inserts – heat set inserts and tap-in inserts.
Another method to secure two separate 3D printed parts is to slide a nut into the component via a nut shaped cavity.
3D printing threads allows you to save time and effort on post processing. The highly customizable method also enables you to design a thread that perfectly fits your needs.
However, this method requires more expertise. It is more challenging as you need to measure the specification for your screw and design that thread into your part.
Threads can be created with Fusion360. Find instructions here.